As I wait to board my plane to home I thought I’d share a few observations of my experience of being up close and personal with the European refugee crisis.
1. The crisis is complex and fluid. It is politically complex and difficult is keep up with the tsunami of humanity. This is not one stream of humanity flowing from one situation towards a one specific goal. It is more like many rivers joining together to form the Mississippi trying to find an ocean, any ocean, which would be a far cry better than the zest pool they’ve been living in. We know about the Syrians where one half of their country has been displaced (12 million) because of civil war. But there are also many others already in exile seeking this opportunity to find a better life. I met Syrians, Iraqis, Moroccans, Somalians, and there were a bunch more I didn’t meet. The tension between the Syrians and other groups is real as the Syrians are ticked off that others would try to bandwagon onto their lamentable position.
2. Not all are good guys. I’ve been alarmed by some of the posts that these are all terrorists. I have no doubt that there are bad cats in this crisis. I talked with a couple of Iraqi men in a refugee camp that thought Saddam Hussein was “good” (palm in forehead). Well, as they say, things from their perspective were more stable, as long as you weren’t a Krud or perceived enemy. But what would a crisis like this look like in the US? Would there not also be undesirables taking advantage of the situation.
3. But most are people needing compassion and help. One of the more heart wrenching moments on my trip was when I was walking in ‘No Man’s Land’ between Macedonia and Greece when I came across an old couple who apparently couldn’t keep up with the pack. They labored in the 90 degree heat on a rocky road carrying everything they owned. As I passed the lady we made eye contact and she was sweating profusely. I said “Hello” and she smiled and said, “Hi” and as soon as she said it her smile disappeared as she looked down to take one more of what will be countless steps towards an unknown and difficult future. For an brief but excellent reflection on the crisis I refer you to Craig Mathieson’s FB post:
4. No country is ready, or at this time, willing, to take them. More and more European countries are closing their borders or handing them off to the next country. The picture attached captures this sentiment. These wooden pallets mark the spot at the Macedonian/Greek border where a train will come and pick up the refugees. When the migrants come by the thousands they gather here. Macedonia gladly backs up a train and offers them a free ride. A free ride through their country and unloads them at the border of a surrounding country. Countries fear that they will become the holding cell for all of Europe.
5. Finally, the compassion ministries (i.e., Convoy of Hope Europe) and ministries are doing all they can to work together to help the situation. I was deeply impressed by the men and women who are working on the front lines. Before you criticize the response, realize that they are dropping other responsibilities and working double time just to do what they can. For many of these Muslims they’ve been told all their life that Christians are evil and out to destroy them. they can’t be trusted and don’t have their best interest in mind. For many, their first real encounter with a Christian will be the person who gives them water or provides an internet service, or gives them a blanket. I attended a church in Athens that is basically birthed by the crisis. Over half of the congregants are Muslim and they are attending Bible studies. Nothing wrong with that, in my book.
That’s it. My free internet has 8 minutes left and my plane boards in an hour. Blessings.